And, of course, there’s a lot of arm-twisting and deal-making.
But, maybe you’re wondering why? Why do they need to go up to Mackinac Island to talk about the same stuff they do all the rest of the year in Lansing?
Here’s how the Detroit Regional Chamber describes it on their website, “This year’s Conference is focused on bringing business and government leaders together to create a globally competitive, financially attractive business environment in Michigan.”
Ok, so maybe it’s about fixing Michigan’s economy… trying to get ‘everyone’ on the same page to move the state forward.
However, this year is a little different than past years. This conference was organized with Governor Rick Snyder in mind. It’s all about Snyder’s “reinventing, rebuilding, and re-energizing” of Michigan. In fact, Snyder made opening remarks at the conference, he’ll hold several press conferences and is scheduled to be part of a panel discussion with Detroit Mayor Dave Bing and Grand Rapids Mayor George Heartwell.
So, that’s what the conference IS. If you want more information about the conference, click here. And, be sure, to click here for Michigan Radio’s coverage of the conference.
But, I think, the bigger question is: why should you care about what happens here?
Well, I could explain about the panels upon panels about ‘reinventing Michigan’ and ‘Michigan’s future’ (Think: Defining the Road to Economic Recovery, or Working Together to Make Michigan Globally Competitive, or Re-bounding and Re-building: A Path to Recovery… get the picture?). Or, I could list the hundreds upon hundreds of attendees (Think: Governor Rick Snyder; Detroit Mayor Dave Bing; Mark Murray, President of Meijer; Michigan Senators Debbie Stabenow and Carl Levin; Bob King, President of the United Auto Workers; Roy Roberts, the new Emergency Financial Manger of the Detroit Public Schools; and a whole ton of state and local lawmakers).
But, after speaking with Rick Pluta of the Michigan Public Radio Network (and, a conference veteran) I figured I’d just quote what he said to me, after I asked him, “Pluta, why should someone actually careabout this conference?”
"Because once a year – the political center of gravity of Michigan moves to this island [Mackinac] … decisions may or may not be made here… but certainly there is an effort underfoot to make things happen. You have to understand: Mackinac Island has become the state Capitol for the rest of this week.
Do you care about the economy? All the business movers-and-shakers are up here. You care about what happens at the state Capitol? All the political movers-and-shakers are here. And, all of these movers-and-shakers are talking to each other. And, they’ll affect things like job creation, education, taxes… this is everyone’s best chance, all year long to make their best pitch for what they care about. That’s why you have CEO’s, top politicians, university presidents, non-profit organizations… all here trying to make the case for whatever matters to them.”
So, maybe you still don’t quite care about the conference. And, that’s OK: it’s a little hard to grasp. But, at the very least, maybe you understand now why some people do care and why you’ll be hearing a lot about the conference in the days, weeks, and months to come.
Legislation to create an authority to build a new international bridge in Detroit has been introduced in the state Senate.
Governor Rick Snyder is using a conference on Mackinac Island to sell the idea to lawmakers and business people.
He still has to win over skeptical Republicans in the Legislature who are not convinced there is no risk to taxpayers in the deal.
The bridge fight could pose his biggest intra-party squabble yet. It's a debate that’s expected to last through much if June.
The governor says the bridge is necessary to support Michigan’s growing export trade, saying the entire state benefits from the growth in exports:
"We had a big bounce back from 2009," Snyder said. "The jump this year has been very large and Canada is our biggest trading partner. We did over $44 billion in exports last year…and 49% of that was with Canada."
The governor says that includes agriculture products and manufactured goods from every corner of Michigan. Supporters of the bridge say there will be even more benefits if Canada and Mexico approve a free trade deal.
The owners of the Ambassador Bridge in Detroit are putting up a fierce fight including a statewide ad campaign to stop the bridge project.
They say there won’t be enough traffic to justify a second bridge.
“The takeaway of Snyder’s speech is that he is going to use the conference to push his goal of getting the legislature to approve the bridge,” Michigan Public Radio Network’s Rick Pluta says.
Not all Republicans are on-board with the idea of building a second bridge. As Pluta explains, “this isn’t the first intra-party fight that he [Snyder] has had.”
Pluta is referring to the controversial tax on some retiree pensions that was part of Snyder’s budget proposal. Pluta predicts the battle over a second bridge will be bigger than the fight Snyder had over the pension tax.
The first is an environmental panel, Reinvention vs. Redevelopment. It’ll take a look at the current state of brownfield redevelopment in Michigan. In particular, Michigan's brownfield and historic tax credit programs - have they worked? And, what will happen when the tax credits are eliminated and replaced with a separate fund.
The second panel, Cutting the Costs of Educating Kids, will dig into the current state of education funding in Michigan (K-12 and higher education): What needs to be done to improve it, how do we go about funding it, and what would be the implications of Governor Rick Snyder's reform ideas on school districts, teachers and students in the state, and the workforce of tomorrow.
Panels put together by the Detroit Regional Chamber for today include Improving Michigan’s Path to Recovery: Lessons from Business Leaders with Doug Rothwell, President and CEO of Business Leaders for Michigan and Emerging Leaders with State Senator Dave Hildenbrand and State Reps Frank Foster, Rudy Hobbs and Andrew Kandrevas. U.S. Senators Carl Levin and Debbie Stabenow will also hold court today and we’ll hear from Mark Reuss, President, North America, General Motors Company.